Anderson .Paak is a rapper, drummer and producer from Oxnard, California, who is now based in Los Angeles. Paak previously recorded under the name Breezy Lovejoy, releasing O.B.E. Vol. 1, and adopted his new moniker with the release of Venice (2014). He has also released music as NxWorries with Knxwledge and was invited to perform on Dr. Dre’s 2015 studio album, Compton, due to this collaboration. Paak signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment weeks after the release of his sophomore album, Malibu (2016).
Brooklyn-born Talib Kweli is a critically acclaimed hip-hop artist, entrepreneur and social activist. Kweli has released ten records as a solo artist and collaborations with Mos Def as Black Star and producer Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal. Other collaborators include Kanye West, Madlib, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar and many others. Kweli often speaks out against police violence and racial stereotypes. He runs the record label Javotti Media.
A beatmaker and producer raised in New Jersey and Philadelphia, Knxwledge is now based in Los Angeles. He has produced for Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly, Joey Badass on 1999 and released dozens of remix and beat-tape collections on his Bandcamp, compiled on Anthology (2013). Knxwledge records with Anderson .Paak as NxWorries and released his debut album Hud Dreams (2015) via Stones Throw.
Stones Throw Records
An independent music label based in Los Angeles, Stones Throw was founded by DJ Peanut Butter Wolf in 1996 and is best known for its underground hip hop releases. Notable artists signed to Stones Throw include Aloe Blacc, Madvillain and Mayer Hawthorne, among others.
A rapper, record producer and entrepreneur, Dr. Dre is the founder of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics. He began his career as a member of Compton rap group N.W.A. and released his first solo record, The Chronic in 1992. He followed up with 2001 (1999) and Compton (2015) and has won six Grammys since 1994. Dr. Dre has been instrumental to the careers of many rappers, including 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Xzibit, 50 Cent, The Game and Kendrick Lamar.
Last year, Anderson .Paak was credited on six songs on Dr. Dre’s Compton (though his vocals appeared on more) and began his meteoric rise as one of the most exciting talents in hip hop. He had been struggling in the underground LA music scene for years—cutting his teeth, learning his craft, starting a family and going broke—before this breakthrough. A drummer, producer and vocalist with roots in the Baptist church, Paak began recording over a decade ago as Breezy Lovejoy, then as Anderson .Paak and one half of NxWorries with producer Knxwledge. His sound assembles influences from the 1960s and ’70s alongside his childhood heroes—a sampling of 20th century touchstones from Al Green and Curtis Mayfield to Timbaland, Aaliyah, D’Angelo and Tupac.
Layered with Paak’s warm, soulful voice, the result is an auditory time capsule through a modern lens. This cross-generational sound is what has attracted—and confounded—his contemporaries; what caught Dr. Dre’s attention when he heard “Suede,” Paak’s 2015 single with NxWorries. Paak recently signed with Dre’s Aftermath Records and released his sophomore album Malibu (2016), which features his band The Free Nationals and industry heavyweights including Talib Kweli, The Game and ScHoolboy Q.
While in Cincinnati for a show, Paak talks with Kweli over the phone about music nostalgia, dream collaborations and what’s coming next.
Talib Kweli: The first Anderson .Paak record I heard was “Suede” and I thought you were a group because Anderson .Paak sounds like two last names. I heard it in a DJ Jay Rock mix. He’s a tour DJ with [my group] Black Star. What I know about Jay Rock is he doesn’t fuck with new shit. He’s someone who’s very serious about his music and is not listening to something because it’s trendy, so when I heard “Suede,” I’m assuming this is a record from someone my age who I missed. The lyrics, the flow—you were talking about Barry White, so I’m like, “Clearly it’s not a young person. This record sounds too good.” But people were like, “It’s Anderson .Paak.” So I realized it was a new thing, but I still thought it was somebody who was old. What was I hearing?
Anderson Paak: It’s interesting that you say you thought it was a group because that song was the first thing we put out under my other group NxWorries. I do all the vocals and the producer, Knxwledge, does all the beats. “Suede” was one of our first collaborations. I grew up with my mom listening to ’60s and ’70s soul music—one of the first memories I have is listening to Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, watching Super Fly. When I started working with Knxwledge, I was used to working with live musicians and producers that utilize newer sounds. It was the first time I worked with someone sample and loop-based whose production style is so minimal. Sometimes it’s just four bars of something, and it’s so infectious that it doesn’t get tiring. It’s so solid and soulful. When he gave me that batch of music, I automatically channeled this ’60s era. I felt like I was in a movie with hella leathers and candy paint and wood grain.
“I grew up with my mom listening to
’60s and ’70s soul music—one of the first
memories I have is listening to Curtis
Mayfield, Al Green, watching Super Fly.”
— Anderson .Paak
I wrote that whole song in the car while I was picking up my son and doing errands. I used to live with a producer named Shafiq Husayn, and he would tell me code names for different drugs. “You want two tickets to the Barry White show?” means you want two baggies of cocaine. I thought that was cool. A lot of the stuff in that song—the references and even the hook, “If I call you a bitch, it’s cause you my bitch”—are all phrases that I heard growing up, from my uncles, even in church. I played drums in the Baptist church for years and years.
TK: It’s also your terminology that made me think you were older.
AP: I think it was a natural thing, man. I had never done much stuff like “Suede.” I was playing with it a little in my solo work, but since we were forming a new group, I felt comfortable going 100% into it. NxWorries had another dimension. It was really refreshing for me.
TK: It’s a theory of mine that you grow up to do the music that your parents were fucking to. Kids my age, we grew up listening to soul records. That’s why my generation samples James Brown, Parliament, Roy Ayers. When I was a teenager, you had a Roy Ayers tape. That was the shit. Roy Ayers had all the hot samples from Tribe Called Quest and T-Rock records that we used to listen to back then. But I notice with kids now why Drake is so popular—his tracks are heavily influenced by the Timbaland, Aaliyah era.